13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI
**** (out of 5)
January 15, 2016
John Krasinski as JACK SILVA
James Badge Dale as TYRONE “RONE” WOODS
Pablo Schreiber as KRIS “TANTO” PARONTO
David Denman as DAVE “BOON” BENTON
Dominic Fumusa as JOHN “TIG” TIEGEN
Max Martini as MARK “OZ” GEIST
Alexia Barlier as SONA JILLANI
David Costabile as BOB
Peyman Moaadi as AMAHL
Matt Letscher as AMBASSADOR CHRIS STEVENS
Directed by: Michael Bay
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When I first heard that Michael Bay was directing a film about the Benghazi attack in 2012, I was disappointed. In general, I’m not a fan of Bay’s work. While the director has a crisp visual style that gives his movies a very impressive look, and while he can do what David Gordon Green once described to me as “whip-ass action,” his attention to plot, character, story and maturity always seemed to be lacking in his films.
For much of his career, Bay has made theatrical fodder for children, even when he directed his “based on a true story” flick “Pain & Gain” a couple years ago. Speaking of “Pain & Gain,” this film was one of the most disingenuous true stories from Hollywood, featuring such wild diversions from the actual true events (even going as far to put “Remember: This Is a True Story” on the screen during sequences that had zero basis in fact) that it became an exercise is futility.
However, for all of his foibles as a filmmaker, I cannot deny that Bay has great respect for the American military. It is actually this respect that restrained him and kept him under control, allowing him to make an honest and realistic telling of the Benghazi story from the perspective of the men whose boots were on the ground.
The film takes its time to set things up, introducing the men that were in Benghazi to protect the secret CIA installation as well as offer assistance with the American consulate nearby. The soldiers and SEALs see the clear chinks in the armor of the defenses of these locations, and soon we see how this exposed Americans to harm when a surprise attack was launched in September of 2012.
One of the most impressive things about “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” was the way Bay and company managed to keep politics out of this film. Over the past three years, these events have become so politicized that the mere word is a hot-button issue. If you don’t believe me, simply log onto Facebook and type “Benghazi” for your status update, and then watch the flames fly.
Bay and Paramount knew this, so they steered clear of politicizing the film. Oh sure, the movie waves the American flag quite a bit, and you’re going to hear people complain that it’s too pro-military and drop words like “jingoistic” in their reviews. Heck, I even read a piece online that pointed to Paramount’s targeted marketing of the film to conservative groups, red states and military families as proof that the movie has a political agenda. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t have a political agenda; this is just smart marketing by Paramount to motivate the film’s core military-centric audience.)
Ultimately, this isn’t a movie about politicians and bureaucrats. It’s about American heroes, and that’s who it was made for. To point fingers at the former sullies the honor that Bay is attempting to show to the Americans who were trying to save American lives.
If there’s any political angle to the movie, it is one of support for the soldiers and SEALs that took up the fight in Benghazi. Is that Americanocentric? Sure, but that’s the perspective of the military. If you don’t understand that, you won’t understand this movie.
Bay’s filmmaking style works quite well in this film, showing the chaos and confusion experienced in armed combat. I’m reticent to call the movie enjoyable because these were real people involved in real life-and-death situations. Instead, let’s say the film is powerful and very well made.
Are there some problems? Sure. As with any Michael Bay movie, the script can be quite heavy-handed at times, and there are some points of really corny dialogue. There’s too many beautifully composed shots that try to be the cinematic equivalent of a Time-Life coffee table book. There’s also some liberties taken to set up an antagonist behind the walls in the form of the CIA, and these spooks are painted as incompetent boobs who can barely function. However, I’ve come to expect this from Bay’s movies, and these problems are minor in the grand scope of the film.
In the end, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is easily Michael Bay’s best effort in his filmography. It’s a strong movie that tells the untold story of the people in the thick of the fight against sizeable odds. It’s not always an easy movie to watch, but it is certainly one that is worth watching.